Rough Waves

Artist: Ogata Kōrin (Japanese, 1658–1716)

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: ca. 1704–9

Culture: Japan

Medium: Two-panel folding screen; ink, color, and gold leaf on paper

Dimensions: Image: 57 11/16 x 65 1/8 in. (146.5 x 165.4 cm)
Overall: 59 1/4 x 66 1/2 in. (150.5 x 168.9 cm)

Classification: Screens

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1926

Accession Number: 26.117


Many artists and poets of the East and West alike have striven to capture the transitory and fleeting image of swelling waves. Kōrin’s rendition—one of Japan’s most striking representations of this amorphous, ungraspable form—has a strangely menacing feel, due no doubt to the long, tentacle-like fingers of foam, punctured here and there by openings. Outlined in ink using the ancient Chinese technique of drawing with two brushes held together in one hand, the clawlike waves are peculiarly reminiscent of dragons’ talons. The immediate inspiration for the screen may have been images by Sesson Shūkei (ca. 1504–ca. 1589), whose extant works include a number of dynamic and mysterious renderings of waves.

The screen bears a seal reading “Dōsū,” the name Kōrin adopted in 1704. Recent research suggests that the screen was executed between 1704 and 1709, when Kōrin was residing in Edo (now Tokyo).